I'm a female writer in my thirties. My agent has just contacted me with a fantastic offer for my first two novels. I should be ecstatic, but there's an aspect of the book business these days that I perhaps willfully didn't think about until now, and I'm afraid it could foul the deal.
The proposed contract calls for a heavy schedule of interviews, book signings, and so on. I've only communicated with my agent by email and phone, and I keep a very low profile online, so neither she nor the publisher know that several years ago I was severely disfigured in an accident. I only feel comfortable revealing my face to a few close friends, family members, and doctors, and never leave my house without either a wide-brimmed hat and opaque black veil (which I prefer), or dark glasses, a surgical mask, and a wig (as I no longer have hair).
I'm perfectly willing to be photographed, do signings, etc. with my face covered. I'm equally willing to let a model/actress/intern of the publisher's choice stand in for me. How likely is it that the publisher won't accept either of these solutions? If I disclose this before signing the contract, might they withdraw their offer and go with a more photogenic writer? If I disclose it after signing, can they sue me or attempt to force me to reveal my face? Thank you for any guidance you can provide.
First let me say that the publisher and your agent love your writing and thus they are going to love your face.
However. I can appreciate that you are reluctant to have a public presence right now. It will take another couple years to understand that people who are cruel to you based solely on your appearance are idiots and fuck em.
The trick here is to talk to your agent NOW. Share your concerns. You will be instantly reassured because much publicity and marketing is done electronically these days, and you can choose whatever photo you wish to represent yourself.
In fact, there's a well-known agent who fancies herself a bit of a shark:
and uses that avatar for everything.
Perhaps you can be equally fierce
I myself have begged fashionistas to re-embrace theburka; perhaps you will join my quest?
All levity aside: a publisher has no desire to cancel a contract for failure to show your face. Publishers are money-grubbing whores [as we all are] and cancelling a contract Does Not Make Money. Novels rarely require actual in-person promotion. Debut novels require the least. You'll be much more effective promoting yourself right now from behind your computer screen.
Don't be afraid. You're going to do just fine.